Come November, if you are still on a Windows Phone 8.1 device, you won’t be receiving any further updates for Skype; Microsoft is bailing the sinking ship.
Skype is going through a massive transformation at the moment – unfortunately, the folks still on Windows Phone 8.1 won’t be able to see this new Skype. Microsoft only wants to support one platform – Windows 10 Mobile.
Microsoft hasn’t had much success with the mobile space – even its OEM’s have started to lose faith in their ambitions – but supporting its applications and services on its own platform should have been the least Microsoft could do for the users who put their faith into Microsoft’s promises.
Alas, that is not the case. The move does not make much sense either – just under 90% of the Windows phone devices are not running Windows 10 Mobile – that’s a staggering number of users that Microsoft is abandoning.
It could be argued that Microsoft is simply cutting costs – restructuring Skype should have been a hint, but it’s not just limited to that. Microsoft is making significant shifts, and they are not all pretty.
For Microsoft, it makes sense to support Skype via its latest and greatest UWP framework – a single app developed for Windows 10 on every platform.
The UWP app is great; Microsoft is continuously working on adding new features to the app, and bringing it to feature parity with the Win32 desktop client – however, there’s a tiny issue with that.
The Skype UWP app available for Windows 10 Mobile is only supported for Windows 10 Version 1607 – that’s the Anniversary Update. In theory that shouldn’t be a problem – every Windows 10 user should have updated to the Anniversary Update; however, for a mobile device, logic does not always prevail.
There are plenty of devices running Windows Mobile 10, but haven’t received the Anniversary Update – and show no sign of getting it. Microsoft does not control these updates – after all, Microsoft made the grave mistake of leaving that job to the OEM’s who have an incentive to not upgrade older devices, especially when they barely made any money from them.
2017 No More
If you thought that’s where the issues end – not quiet. While the support for Windows Phone 8.1 devices ends in October, the Skype app will continue to work – until sometime early 2017.
Skype’s networking always has been peer-to-peer – this is technically complicated, but in short, if you send a message to your aunt; there is nobody in the middle of it – the message is sent from your device to your aunt’s device. It’s peer to peer.
After the Skype acquisition in 2013, Microsoft has been working on migrating Skype to its Azure platform – the cloud – which is what makes things like Skype Translate possible. A message from your device to your aunt’s device will be routed through Microsoft’s servers.
The issue isn’t privacy or security – you could argue about it, but that’s not the point we are making here. The issue is this: while the Skype app for Windows Phone 8.1 works right now, it won’t work when Microsoft is done migrating Skype to the cloud.
The current app is built for the same old peer-to-peer network, and if Microsoft continued support it would have received an update to work with the new cloud infrastructure – but it will never receive that update.
Therefore, Skype is going to be non-existent on Windows Phone 8.1 devices, come 2017 – even if it works for the next two months.
With Windows Phone 8.1 no longer supported, and the UWP app only working for devices which have been blessed with the Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update; starting from 2017, only about 4.2% of Windows 10 Mobile devices are going to be able to use Skype.
The Windows market share on mobile is around 0.7%. Only 4.2% of this 0.7% will be able to use Skype in 2017. These numbers are approximations and estimates, but they are quite bleak – and Microsoft’s strategy isn’t helping.